I write these words at 33,000 feet over central Wisconsin. I'm on my way to spend some time with the brothers at the Arizona-California District Pastors' Conference. I've packed my essay, plenty of music samples, and my scuffed-up organ shoes for Wednesday evening's hymn festival. Since I have hymns on my mind and in my fingers, I also packed the results of the survey that went out to WELS teachers earlier this year. I have all of Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California to review and react to the results.
Christian Worship is in the pews of over 98% of our churches. Not surprisingly, Christian Worship is also found stashed between math and social studies books in a vast majority of our synod's classrooms. Roughly 80% of WELS classrooms use Christian Worship as their chief source for hymnology and memory work. Even more (94%) use Christian Worship for school worship settings (classroom devotions and chapel services). It seems that the use of Christian Worship in our classrooms is nearly as widespread as in our churches.
But there was one item on the survey that was somewhat surprising: The relatively low use of Christian Worship Supplement (CWS) in our classrooms. When it comes to classroom devotions and chapel services, 63% of teachers are using the Supplement “occasionally” or “seldom/never.” When it comes to hymnology and memorization, that number jumps to 77%.
This is somewhat surprising since CWS has many titles that are made-to-order for students. I can picture the eyes of several junior choir girls tearing up as we sang the Gettys’ "There Is a Higher Throne." The simple refrain of "Blessed Are They Who Are Called" is a favorite of our younger students. "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It" is a beautiful baptismal hymn that children will love. "I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light" served as the theme song for a whole school year. It was extra-special when God's assembled Children of Light sang that same hymn by candlelight at our first Epiphany candlelight service.
In short, the Supplement has much gold for students to mine. Maybe you’ve hesitated to add one more book to buy to an already-long list and to squeeze into an already-full desk. Consider starting by purchasing enough copies for one class or choir to use at a time and storing those copies with the rest of your sacred music files.
Whether you’ve already made extensive use of the Supplement or not, we recognize the challenge in finding hymns that children - especially the younger ones - can understand and learn to sing. We’d love to hear what hymns you’ve found to be well-suited for praise from the lips of the children you teach.